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Link between digestive health and depression

Are you aware of the fact that your digestive health has an affect on your psychological well-being? The interest in gut health has never been stronger and the exploration into the gut micro biota has revealed a close relation between behavioral issues, mood, and bacteria imbalance. There are a number of factors that influence the conditions of the gut micro biota and gut environment, among which diet is a major one.

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The Close-knitted connection

The gut is connected to the brain via the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the gut-brain axis. The vagus nerve extends from the brain stem down into the neck, thorax, and abdomen. The nerve exits the brainstem through rootlets in the medulla that are caudal to the rootlets for the ninth cranial nerve. The vagus nerve supplies motor parasympathetic fibers to all organs except adrenal glands, all the way from the neck down to the second segment of the transverse colon. It helps regulate heart rate, speech, sweating, and various gastrointestinal functions.

The enteric nervous system connects with the central nervous system. It contains 200-600 million neurons. Local and centrally projecting sensory neurons in the gut wall monitor mechanical conditions in the gut wall. Local circuit neurons, on the other hand, integrate this information. This enables motor neurons to influence the activity of the smooth muscles in the gut wall and glandular secretions such as digestive enzymes, mucus, stomach acid, and bile.

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The enteric nervous system has been referred to as a “second brain” because of its ability to operate autonomously and communicate with the central nervous system through the parasympathetic (i.e., via the vagus nerve) and sympathetic nervous systems.

Finally, the gut-brain axis consists of bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. There is strong evidence from animal studies that gut microorganisms can activate the vagus nerve and play a critical role in mediating effects on the brain and behavior.

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The Role of Bacteria in Depression

Medical studies have shown that the gut micro biota influences brain chemistry and behavior. For example, people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the associated cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation, commonly suffer from depression and anxiety as well.

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Gut micro biota influences serotonin and dopamine production. In fact, more than 90% of the body’s serotonin is found in the gut. Serotonin is a key regulator of gastrointestinal motility. Serotonin is also one of the “feel-good” neurotransmitters and contributes to feelings of well being and happiness. In fact, the enteric nervous system makes use of more than thirty neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine.

How to Aid or Restore Your Gut Flora

Following a healthy diet is one way to encourage a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Base your diet on fruits and vegetables. Add fermented foods, such as yogurt, to your diet for natural source of probiotics. If you don’t consume probiotic foods, consider taking a probiotic supplement, which also contain efficient amount prebiotics to promote a healthy gut environment.

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